Brain and Body Connection

“I think; therefore, I am” is perhaps the most famous statement in the history of philosophy. The statement by Rene Descartes, penned in 1637, still has a significant influence on our thinking in the 21st century.

The statement is the foundation of Cartesian dualism that separates the brain from the body. In his book, Damasio challenges Descartes’ pronouncement. Damasio, an M.D. and Ph.D., now at the University of Southern California and adjunct professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, is the recipient of scores of scientific honors and prizes. He is internationally recognized for his research on the neurology of vision, memory, and language along with his contributions to the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease.

He contrasts the brain (neurological) with the mind (psychological) and shows that the brain, body, and mind are so interwoven by collections of systems that they cannot be separated.

Contrary to traditional scientific opinion, Damasio provides convincing evidence that feelings cannot be separated from cognition. In fact, our emotions significantly affect our thinking.

He also shows that internal communications are image-based. This is especially dear to me since my approach is based on communicating positive images.

Damasio gives the example that many people fear flying more than driving in spite of the fact that a rational calculation of risk unequivocally demonstrates that we are far more likely to survive a flight between two given cities than a car ride between the same two cities. The difference, by several orders of magnitude, favors flying over driving. And yet most people FEEL safer driving than flying. The reason may be that we allow the image of a plane crash, with its emotional drama, to dominate the landscape of our reasoning and to generate a negative bias against the correct choice (pages 191-192).

Damasio shows neurologically two basic foundations of my approaches to promote responsible behavior:
1. A change in behavior is as much emotion-based as it is cognition-based, and
2. The human mind thinks in pictures, images, and visions.

My corollary is that if you want to influence a person to change behavior, empower them with positive images—rather than overpowering them with negative ones.